Golf Cart Disc Brakes: Need to Upgrade Your Brakes?

Most E-Z-GO, Yamaha, and Club Car golf carts come stock with drum brakes. These are all well and dandy, but if you get a few speed/power upgrades, the stock drums can be a little underwhelming. Lots of go power requires lots of stopping power, you know?

Once you run into this issue, it’s almost necessary to have disc brakes. It’s pretty easy to add some to the front, since there aren’t any brakes there on a stock golf cart, but once you get to a certain point, you might want discs on the rear too for their heightened response and power.

This article will walk you through those considerations and give you some ideas on how to get the brakes your golf cart needs.

Does your golf cart have stock disc brakes

Probably not. Usually, stock discs would only be on a performance golf cart or buggy type vehicle. They’re a little more expensive than regular drum brakes, and they work best with a hydraulic system. This adds another golf cart maintenance item, and a lot of tubing that runs up manufacturing costs.

Added to this, most golf carts are sold for the purpose of scooting around town or a golf course. While they’re useful for getting out onto your land, or going hunting, they still don’t really require much in the way of braking in these applications.

Disc brakes really only become necessary if you plan to use your golf cart on a more technical trail where your brakes are needed for harsh descents, or if you modify your golf cart to be faster or more powerful than your stock drums can handle.

It’s possible that if you bought a golf cart specifically designed for trail usage or racing, you might have disc brakes, but most likely, you’re gonna need to install them yourself if you want them.

Why should I upgrade to disc brakes?

Good question. If you use your cart as a grocery getter or just scooting around the town, community, or golf course then it may not be worth it. Your Yamaha, E-Z-GO, or Club Car golf cart was designed with drum brakes, because they can handle any application of your stock golf cart.

However, rear only drum brakes don’t provide the most stopping power or responsive speed control. They’ll stop your golf cart within a reasonably safe distance and help you slow down for turns when you need to, but once you start upgrading your speed, the stock drums won’t be able to keep up after a while.

Most golf carts are designed to go about 15 miles per hour. It doesn’t take a lot to stop a relatively light vehicle at that speed. It also depends on.

A few easy upgrades can have you exceeding 25 miles per hour, though. Once this happens, you have two things to consider. One is that your golf cart probably isn’t designed to corner at that speed, and the other is that your drum brakes may not have the power to stop you at all, much less swiftly and safely.

Drum brakes have a major fault of burn-out. This condition happens when the power requirement exceeds what the drum brake is capable of providing. Once a drum brake goes past that and slides too much, they glaze over and lose almost all power.

The only way to regain that power is if they cool off completely, and sometimes even require being replaced. If a disc brake gets hot, it may warp, but it won’t lose power.

With cornering in an upgraded golf cart, you will require the ability to slow down swiftly and in a controlled manner to come back to a safe speed for maneuvering. Disc brakes excel at this application, as they are much easier for the driver to regulate. By simply applying the pedal lighter or harder, you can go from slow, metered deceleration to a tire skidding hard stop. Drum brakes just don’t have that range of control.  

Other reasons to consider disc brakes are for trail riding. For the most part, as long as you don’t get into any wicked descents or types of terrains that don’t allow your rear wheels good contact, you should be fine on drums.

As soon as your trail riding takes you a steep down hill or very uneven terrain however, you’ll appreciate front disc brakes especially as they’ll provide more braking area in case some of your tires leave the ground.

How do I obtain this stopping power?

There are a couple ways to go about having disc brakes on your golf cart. You can either get an all inclusive kit, two separate kits for front and back, or pull a kit from a different vehicle. Pulling a conversion kit off another vehicle is always fun, as you can always just put your old brakes on that one and try to sell it to make your money back, or have a parts golf cart in case anything on your primary golf cart messes up. Honestly, though you’ll be lucky to ever find the right cart with the kit you want, and it may be best to just spend the money on a conversion kit. But what kind?

Upgrading to disc brakes

So you’ve decided that your Yamaha, E-Z-GO, or Club Car golf cart needs a disc brake upgrade, regardless of the tires,? You hit a trail that got too scary on a downhill or made it so fast or powerful you weren’t able to stop safely?

Alright, let’s talk about disc brake upgrades. First things first, are you gonna just put the discs in the front or upgrade the stock rear drums as well?

Just the front

If you’re not quite sure about how much extra stopping power you need, a good place to start is by just installing a disc brake system on the front of your golf cart. Most likely, your Yamaha, E-Z-GO, or Club Car golf cart doesn’t have any brakes in the front, so it’s a pretty simple upgrade that only involves adding parts instead of deleting or replacing parts.

It won’t provide the same power as having disc brakes on all four corners of your golf cart and it is true that the uneven braking will be a lot less responsive and controlled than four corner discs, but it will be a huge improvement over drums for a slightly lower cost.

An added bonus is that if you decide to upgrade the rear later, you already have the system installed and it’s as easy as adding the rear discs into the existing system.

Just the back

Or maybe, you don’t want to change too much in the front and you just want added stopping power in the rear  for you E-Z-GO, Club Car, or Yamaha. There are two types of rear disc brake systems, one that uses the existing cable system, and one that uses a hydraulic system.

If all you want is stopping power, then the cable would work perfectly, but for responsiveness and control, the hydraulics are the best way to go.

Much like with the front only systems, if you decide to just go hydraulic in the rear, it’ll be pretty easy to add front discs later, plus rear disc brakes help a lot with descent and cornering control when hydraulic. It’ll be easiest and cheapest to just do rear cable actuated disc brakes though, and they will drastically increase your stopping power.

Four corner disc brakes

Lastly, we have the nuclear option. If you want your Yamaha, E-Z-GO, or Club Car golf cart to stop on a dime, regardless of power or speed, and have the control to handle tight turns or dangerous descents without forcing you into a slide, you should consider four corner disc brakes.

These kits are way more expensive, but you get the whole deal all at once. You can get a kit with either a full hydraulic disc brake system, or one with hydraulic front disc brakes and cable actuated rear disc brakes. I would suggest spending the extra money and getting the full hydraulic system.

The only real benefit of the cable actuated rear disc brakes is that they’re less expensive.

Remember that stopping power is way more important than go fast power, and good luck on your upgrades!

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